Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Archbishop's hopelessly muddled thinking

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli. On 16 June 2013 Garofoli posted excerpts from a set of pre-interview questions submitted to the archbishop in writing.

To the question of what Cordileone would do if the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Cordileone replied in part:

Too many children are being hurt by our culture’s strange and increasing inability to appreciate how important it is to bring together mothers and fathers for children in one loving home. The basic question is: does our society need an institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers, or doesn’t it? The only institution that does this is marriage. Redefining marriage will mean that our society will have given its definitive answer: “no”; it will mean changing the basic understanding of marriage from a child-centered institution to one that sees it as a temporary, revocable commitment which prioritizes the romantic happiness of adults over building a loving, lasting family. This would result in the law teaching that children do not need an institution that connects them to the mother and father who brought them into the world and their mother and father to each other.
I get that the Catholic Church is deeply concerned about the welfare of children (no irony, in spite of the child sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Church). Yet how does gay marriage harm children? Cordileone doesn't say anything remotely convincing on that score. He would have to show that opposite-sex marriages that produce children are somehow harmed by gay marriage. He doesn't show this, because, of course, he can't. No such harm exists except in the fevered imaginations of Cordileone and those who think like him.

How does gay marriage lead to the proposition, "Society doesn't need an institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers"? Cordileone's answer seems to be that marriage now, under the law, "prioritizes the romantic happiness of adults over building a loving, lasting family".

Wow. I didn't know legalizing gay marriage did all that. (Not that we've actually legalized it as a nation, mind you.) I guess that means that every marriage before 26 June 2013 produced children and endured forever.

Oh. Wait. What was that statistic again? The divorce rate is "slightly more than 40 percent", according to an article by the Public News Service from 20 March 2013. I can't find the percentage of childless marriages, but I'm certain that's nonzero, too. It's not gay marriage that prioritizes the romantic happiness of adults over building a loving, lasting family. It's society.

Good grief, how can you even say that creating a family is automatically better than not creating one? Haven't we all known people who should never have had kids? I'm sorry, Archbishop, but if you're saying marriage is solely about raising kids, you need to extract your head from your hindquarters and (1) count how many people this planet is already failing to support, and (2) take a long, hard look at your flock to see if you can't pick out even a few who have no business being parents.

Now, Cordileone might have a valid point when he says that prioritizing adults' romantic happiness leads to "the law teaching that children do not need an institution that connects them to the mother and father who brought them into the world and their mother and father to each other". However, that point doesn't apply to gay marriage. It applies to divorce. The number of gay couples who wish to have their own children through surrogacy (violating Cordileone's pronouncement that a child needs its mother and father) is going to be a lot smaller than the number of couples, gay and straight, who wish to divorce, so if your concern is all about children, you should exert yourself where the greatest benefits could be reaped and fix the nation's divorce rate. Archbishop, your aim is off.

Homosexuality is a problem for Christianity: the Bible's injunctions against it are well-known. Those injunctions, though, run head-first into the modern era's willingness to look beyond old strictures, to ask why those strictures exist. When you ask "why", you find no good, convincing answers. Believers quoted on a local newscast argued that gay marriage undermines our notions of "right" and "wrong", and one woman went so far as to utter a variant on the silly slogan "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve".

Fine. Believe that if you will. But don't expect these Bible-originated arguments to mean jack to me or to the increasing number of people who think like me.

If religious believers want to turn the tide on gay rights, they'd better find arguments that don't come out of their holy texts. They'd better find arguments that mean something to those who don't think like them.

I doubt they can.

[UPDATE: Added the link to Garofoli's blog post.]

[2nd UPDATE: Fixed the corrupted last sentence in the third-to-last paragraph.]

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